Take a Closer Look

They may be stylish, but are oversized LCD panels worth the price? Here's the flat-out truth.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the November 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Oh yes, good looks are important. When you spend more than eight hours staring at something, it ought to be an LCD monitor. They're easy on the eyes, save space and energy, and are fairly affordable. But sometimes bigger is better. Seventeen- and 18-inch monitors come with a bit more sticker shock than 15-inchers, but also with a whole lot more. They pay off in comfort and productivity and are appropriate for graphics work, viewing legal-sized documents and Web design.

There's also something appealing about seeing your desktop coming through with a 17-inch LCD. We replaced our last year's model 15-inch flat panel with the $890 (all prices street) 17-inch Samsung SyncMaster 171P to write this story. Big difference. Literally. If you go from a traditional CRT to an LCD, it's even more stunning.

LCD prices are notorious for fluctuating. Big, flat panels are more affordable than ever, but just when you think the cost of an LCD is down for good, a manufacturing shortage rears its ugly head and drives prices back up. It pays to keep an eye on the market. If your dream 17-incher is out of budget reach, just wait and catch it on its way down or at the end of the model year.

The best-case buying scenario is viewing potential LCDs in person. Since that's not always possible, be sure to buy from a retailer with a good return policy. Same thing goes for the manufacturer's warranty. Three-year coverage is ideal.

Mac users will be interested in the $999 17-inch Apple Studio Display. The one-year warranty is slim, but you can buy an extended one.

Features to consider are integrated audio, swivel and pivot screens and sturdiness. Analog and digital are your choices for connecting. Many monitors come with both to handle your technology needs.

Special features can help you narrow down monitor choices. The $900 Sony SDM-X72 includes an Eco Mode button that reduces power consumption by 20 percent. An internal power supply also reduces clutter. If size matters, the Sharp LL-T1803 is an 18-inch monitor that comes in at $949. The $935 FP882 is comparable. You won't get bells and whistles, but you'll cut 18-inch LCD display prices.

The $850 IBM T750 is one of several monitors with swivel capabilities so you can view your work lengthwise. Spreadsheets and lengthy documents can be handled this way. With so many competing manufacturers, you'll be able to find a large LCD that meets you at the corner of Budget and Features. In the bargain bin, you'll find the $549 Envision EN-7100e and the ViewSonic VE700 for $639.

But be discerning about who in your business needs a 17- or 18-inch monitor and who will do fine with a 15-incher.

Shopping List
Can't decide which oversized LCD panel will do the job? take a look at the big picture before hitting the computer store.

17-inch studio display
(800) my-apple
17-inchDigital input, apple display connector interfaceOne years$999
(866) 700-2367
18-inchAnalog and digital inputs, built-in speakersThree years$935
(888) 838-6388
17-inchAnalog input, ultra-thin lcdThree years$549
(888) shop-ibm
17-inchAnalog and digital inputs, tilt swivel standThree years$850
(800) 237-9988
17-inchAnalog input, includes matching mouse & keyboardThree years$669
Multisync LCD1700nx
(888) nec-mits
17-inchAnalog and digital inputs, optimized for videoThree years$749
Syncmaster 171p
(866) 542-7214
17-inchAnalog and digital inputs, 360-degree swivel baseThree years$890
(800) 237-4277
18-inchAnalog and digital inputs,90-degree swivelThree years$949
(888) 315-sony
17-inchDigital and analog inputs, built-in stereo speakersThree years$900
(800) 888-8583
17-inchAnalog input, auto-tune, settings lock functionThree years$639
(after rebate)

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